The process of building up a competitive application for residency is very similar to pre-med and getting into medical school. Depending on the specialty you want to pursue and its competitiveness, you will have to do more or less things outside of school to be competitive. If you are early in the game, we recommend building the most competitive application you can because it is better to have a competitive application and decide on a less competitive specialty later than doing the opposite. You have to do as much as you can while being careful not to burn out or spread yourself too thin. Here are the things you want to make sure you cover.
Out of hundreds of medical students who are smart, hardworking and competitive, you have to seperate yourself once again. One way to do this is to participate in a leadership role. Similar to pre-med, you don’t want a grocery list of things on your application, nor will you have time for it. You want a few, high quality pursuits that show specific characteristics.
As a resident, you will have to take a leadership role and be self-sufficient as much as possible. So in order to show a good foundation for this, take on a leadership role in medical school. This can involve starting your own club, joining a club in first year and then become an executive in 2nd year, starting something outside of medicine or something in a similar vein. If you know what specialty you want to pursue, one way to do this is to join and ascend an interest group related to the specialty or create your own. This will allow you to make connections with residents and higher-ups in the specialty as you organize events and communicate with them.
If you know which specialty you want to pursue, doing research related to it is a great addition to your application. The more competitive the specialty, the more of an expectation this is. Quality is always better than quantity, but if you are going for something very competitive like plastic surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics etc, you will want to have both.
Do shadowing with residents and attendings in the specialty you want, and ask the ones you vibe with if they are willing to have you on for a research project. You can also cold-email faculty with a professional CV and showing of interest in their research. If you do not know what you want to pursue, it is still good to have some general research to show commitment and contribution to the medical/scientific field.
3) Clinical Work or Shadowing
You also want to show some clinical work or exploration of the medical field. Depending on your finances, this can include doing summer medical trips to different countries, starting/participating in student-run clinics or even organizing a club where you teach pre-meds or high school students medical skills. The bare minimum can be shadowing physicians/residents in different specialties. This won’t necessarily be a stand-out activity in your application but in can help to build connections and open doors to other potential opportunities.
For your personal health, and even for your application it is vital to have interests outside of medical school. I love cycling, intramural sports and running this blog/YouTube channel. Not only does this give me a much needed break from studying, it makes me a more balanced, social personal. This will show when you work with people on your sub-internships or as a clerk where you are better able to communicate with them. How many non-medicine related things you can do will depend on how efficient you are with your time and how many of the above three you are doing. Try your best to study efficiently and make time for as much non-school related things as you can. This will keep you happy, enjoying the process and prevent burnout.
It is important to do things outside of medical school classes to build a strong residency application and for your own mental health. Make sure to cover these bases mentioned.